Joy and Happiness; Is There a Difference?
By Art Ramsay, Ph.D.

 We often read and hear about happiness in our everyday lives. Some of us may experience it, others may not; it is said to be a choice. Most of us certainly chose to be happy when we experience what we define as a happy event, such as getting married, graduating from school or college, welcoming a new born into the world, or just buying something new, like a car.

 Happiness is defined by Wikipedia as a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Interesting that joy is mentioned in the definition. How often do you feel this way? Also, since contentment begins the defined range of feelings, it fits with how I expressed it in several articles I have written about being content with your life.

 Take a look at your daily life and note when you feel happy and when you do not using the above definition. Since the definition uses a range of feelings or emotions, it would be helpful to give the feeling/emotion a name within that range. Don’t concern yourself right now as to why you are doing this; it will come together later.

 Now let us look at joy. The Free Online Dictionary defines joy this way: Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness. It appears that joy is related to happiness using this definition, although beyond “normal” happiness since the words “ecstatic” and “exultant” are used in the definition. So they are similar, but not exactly the same as defined.

 Let’s look further. The Joy Project’s definition using an iceberg as an example:

The bulk of the iceberg consists of the 12 pillars of joy;


·                          Gratitude

·                          Compassion/grace

·                          Hope

·                          Reverence

·                          Generosity

·                          Forgiveness





·                          Energy and vitality

·                          Listening

·                          laughter

·                          Love

·                          Cheerful enthusiasm

·                          Equanimity



And as we work our way through those we find joy is present without waiting for something else to happen or without us chasing it. 

 So now we have two ways of looking at joy; one of exultant happiness and the other of “…joy present without waiting for something else to happen …”. This definition cites joy as something beyond experiencing something that causes a response, such as happiness.

 Years ago, when I was doing some ministerial work, I came across a book that defined happiness as the result of some experience, whereas joy was a feeling within of the presence of God such that it drives our lives. We can redefine this by rephrasing the words to fit our present understanding of knowing who we are as spiritual beings and living from this knowing.

 At first, according to the definitions gotten from the online dictionaries, it would seem that while joy is “exulted” happiness, it still depends on happiness, if we use its definition. I basically do not fully agree with either of the first definitions of happiness and joy. The definition I gave above using the input from The Joy Project and the book I read is a much better definition of joy, while happiness is a choice.

 If you did the exercise at the beginning of this article, you might want to go over the results and determine whether any of your happiness experiences resulted from a choice to be happy or just from something you liked that happened. There have been several books written such as Happy For No Reason that might be useful to you.

 In David Hawkins book, Power vs Force, he defines levels of being or consciousness from 20 to 700 and beyond. He has joy on a level of 540, only three from the top. Nowhere does he mention happiness on the chart. This further supports the idea that happiness is made up or a choice we humans make about how we feel. 

For me, happiness is something I have found to be fleeting in my way of observing its presence in my life. Surely, I cannot say it is an ongoing experience for me, although I have played with the idea of choosing to be happy. On the other hand, I have felt joy within for years knowing that I am a being of love and guided by the Universe.

 I have said in previous articles that people who know who they are, who serve others, who live happy lives are healthier and live longer; this has been proven scientifically many times. Our consciousness and level of vibration like that stated in Hawkins’s book are important in how our lives manifest the experiences we have each day.

Take some time to look at your life with regard to happiness and joy. Where do they fit in what you do and how you relate to others? Have you tried choosing to be happy verses being happy because of some event? Do you feel joy within? Contemplate the above and adjust your daily life to one of joy and happiness. You will be glad you did as will everyone around you.


I need your feedback to give you the kind of articles you want.  Please click on the email below and rate this article by putting a 1, 2, or 3 in the ‘subject’ line. Thank you.
1 – not helpful
2 – somewhat helpful
3 – very helpful


Copyright 2013 Inner Peace and Wisdom      All rights reserved